They’re the ones who keep the puerile shows on TV, who appear as regular recipients of the Darwin Awards, who raise our insurance rates by doing dumb things, who generally make life much more miserable for all of us than it ought to be. Sad to say, they comprise a substantial minority — perhaps even a majority — of the populace. —Neal Starkman —The S factor explains Bush’s popularity (Seattle PI)
Note to self: If ever writing an opinion column calling much or most of the world “stupid,” avoid destroying own credibility by misusing the word “comprise.” The whole comprises the parts; the parts compose the whole.
There are far better ways to organize an attack on Bush’s policies, the legitimacy of his presidency, and even his personal fitness for the job. But Starkman’s essay is instead a painfully obvious example of the ad hominem fallacy. Calling people stupid because they do not share your worldview does not demonstrate the ability to think critically.
Starkman has, of course, succeeded in stirring up the “Bush is stupid” meme; that will probably help Dean’s campaign.
From Orwell’s 1984
‘There is a word in Newspeak,’ said Syme, ‘I don’t know whether you know it: duckspeak, to quack like a duck. It is one of those interesting words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse, applied to someone you agree with, it is praise.’
Update, 08 Jan: In “Just Another Leftist Loon,” James E. McWilliams writes about the ad hominem attacks generated by his “moderately anti-Bush” op-ed. He recognizes that he sounds like a cloistered scholar surprised and stung by his first encounter with the great unwashed audience he hopes to educate with his brilliance; but since his reflection is published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, that stance is understandable — now he’s hoping to educate his fellow academics that you need a thick skin if you want to bring your discourse into the public arena.
I wonder if McWilliams is familiar with the skin-thickening online rhetorical practices such as fisking, flaming, trolling, etc. — if he were, I doubt he’d have been so surprised by what showed up in his e-mail.